Photo Credit: Masayoshi Sukita

David Bowie's passing has hit me like a ton of bricks. When I heard the news upon waking on January 11th, my initial reaction was one of complete denial. This couldn't be. Am I still asleep? Is this just a bad dream? Aren't magical beings supposed to live forever? I simply couldn't imagine a world without David Bowie in it. As soon as I'd established what I was hearing was true, the tears started to flow. The stars look very different today...

I still haven't fully recovered from the shock. In fact, I have spent the last few days in a daze and have been having trouble forming coherent thoughts, or focusing on anything, but I have to at least try to put my feelings into words, because this beautiful man had such a profound impact on my life, and I know I'm not alone. Oh no love, you're not alone...

To be honest, I have never seen such a collective, heartfelt reaction to the loss of an artist. I am not only referring to the reactions of the myriad celebrities who've shared their personal stories, but to the touching words I've read or heard over the last few days from friends and strangers of all ages and all walks of life. The truth is, David Bowie touched and inspired so many of us, left such a lasting impression on us, that losing him is like losing a part of ourselves. I'll stick with you, baby, for a thousand years...

I was first introduced to Bowie by my two older brothers, in the mid-70s. I was only 6 or 7 years old at the time, so, of course, I didn't fully grasp his lyrical genius, but I was mesmerised nonetheless. I was but a child, but I knew what I was hearing was extraordinary. I remember hearing Space Oddity for the first time and being transported to another dimension. I also recall watching The Man Who Fell to Earth and being equally mesmerised. Who was this beautiful, unearthly being? Where did he come from? Is there life on Mars?

In the early 80s, as I came of age and began to develop my own musical tastes, I fell in love with Duran Duran, my favourite band to this day. They taught me that being a weirdo was okay; I didn't have to fit in, I didn't have to follow the conventions of society, I could be myself, and it didn't matter what anybody else thought, because being true to yourself is the only way to be. Duran Duran had learnt that lesson from David Bowie. If he had never existed, they never would have existed. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that none of my favourite artists would exist today if it weren't for David Bowie. Truth be told, I wouldn't be the person I am today. He paved the way for us all, because not only did he give us permission to be weirdos; he gave us something to aspire to. You and I will rise up all the way. All because of what you are. The prettiest star...

In the summer of 1986, I spent a couple of weeks at my dad's house in The Laurentians, north of Montreal. It was beautiful there, but as a city kid, I'd been going a little stir crazy in the wilderness and needed to get out, to be with "my people" so to speak. So, when my older cousin came to visit, I begged her to take me to a local alternative bar called Le B-52. The bar itself is long gone, but my cousin still talks about that night to this day. Pale as a ghost and dressed in black from head to toe, I was in my element, but my poor cousin, 12 years my senior and married with children, felt rather out of place. However, what struck her, and why she talks about that night to this day, was that these teenage misfits, myself included, were all dancing and singing along to David Bowie. We happened to go there the night a Bowie cover band, all underage, were performing in the back lot. Let's sway, under the moonlight, the serious moonlight...

For me, it was magical. For my cousin, it was surreal. She couldn't wrap her head around the fact that a bunch of freaky, little kids knew all the lyrics to The Man Who Sold The WorldChanges, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, HeroesThe Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans; all songs she had grown up with. I tried to explain it to her. Of course, this was the year Labyrinth had been released and Bowie was the Goblin King, and he was our king! However, despite our young age, we were all acutely familiar with the numerous reincarnations of our king over the years: Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust,  Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke. To my cousin, he was merely a rock star. To us, he was our fearless leader, the innovative enigma responsible for changing the face of music, and we all knew it. And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they're quite aware of what they're going through...

The following year, I got to see David Bowie live in Montreal on The Glass Spider Tour. The supporting act was Duran Duran. It was a dream come true, an indescribable experience I will never forget. I've been fortunate enough to see Duran Duran live several times since then, but I never had the opportunity to see Bowie live again.  Despite being seated in the nosebleeds, words simply cannot express how grateful I am to have had that experience. We scanned the skies with rainbow eyes and saw machines of every shape and size...

I only wish I could have met him. I wish I could have thanked him. Perhaps someday, I will. There's a starman waiting in the sky, he's told us not to blow it, 'cause he knows it's all worthwhile...

David Bowie's departure has left a void that I can't even begin to put into words. Yet, with his parting gift, the remarkable album, Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday only two days before he died, he left us not only with a masterpiece, but with a final lesson. He always made us believe that anything was possible, he never disappointed us, and he challenged us, right up until the very end.  With grace and dignity, he turned his death into a work of art. There is only one way to even attempt to fill this void and that is to create art, like he did, right up until the very end. You know, I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird. Now ain’t that just like me. 

Montreal Zombie Walk 2015

This year, on Halloween, I had a gruesomely good time shooting the annual Montreal Zombie Walk. I was dead impressed with the amount of creativity I witnessed that day. Honestly, I was not expecting such elaborate costumes and makeup. Many of the zombies did their own makeup, but I know that some of Montreal's most talented makeup artists, some of whom I've had the pleasure of working with before, including Kim Creton, were very much involved in making this event a success. Many thanks to all of the zombies who allowed me to photograph them. Your infectious enthusiasm truly put me in the Halloween spirit. I'm already looking forward to next year's Zombie Walk!

These are some of my favourite shots. You can view the full album on Facebook.

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An Afternoon with Katherine Watson

I was delighted and flattered when the lovely and talented Katherine Watson, whom I had worked with in Switzerland in 2010, contacted me for a photo shoot. Katherine is an accomplished flutist and piccoloist from Dunsford, Ontario. She is a graduate of the Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory, where she received her Artist’s Diploma in 2012, and also earned her Bachelor of Music in Performance from the University of Toronto. Now based in Montreal, she is currently pursuing her Master of Music in Orchestral Performance at McGill University. I recently had the pleasure of spending a sunny afternoon at Jean-Drapeau Park with her and my wonderful assistant Vikki Snyder


Autumn Promotion

For a limited time, Deena Roth Photography is offering a special discount to celebrate the arrival of autumn! Between October 10th and October 25th, take advantage of this promotion and get a personalised Portrait Session for only $200! Why not make the most of this special time of year? Book now to reserve your spot.

Your personalised portrait session includes...

• A pre-session phone or email consultation.

• Each session is custom designed to suit your personality. Therefore, prior to your session, you will be presented with a mood board which conveys the essence of the session concept.

• Custom-made, handcrafted props.

• 1-2 hour on-location photo session.

• Private, password-protected online viewing gallery.

• Digital download of 5 high resolution edited images with print release.

*Additional images may be ordered for $25/each.
** Professional makeup artist and/or hair stylist available for an additional cost.

Possible locations include...

• Mount-Royal Park
• Mount Royal Cemetery
• Westmount Park
• Mont-Saint-Bruno National Park
• Lafontaine Park
• Jean-Drapeau Park
• Bassin Bonsecours
• Bois-de-Liesse Park
• Morgan Arboretum
• Angrignon Park
• Marcel-Laurin Woodland

Woodland Fairy Tale

I recently had the pleasure of photographing the lovely Lila for a second time -- this time for a fairy tale session -- and we had so much fun! It had been almost a year since I had last photographed her and she has only grown more delightful since then. Lila, you truly embraced the role of woodland fairy. Well done! I'm glad that you enjoyed frolicking in the forest and wearing the crowns that I designed especially for you. Special thanks to the lovely Jill and Ros Tyrer,  and of course to my extraordinary assistant Vikki Snyder.

Echo & Narcissus Revisited

These are my shots from the Concept Collaboration meetup that I hosted with the one and only Clément Guégan. The theme was 'In Reflection' and I was largely inspired by the Greek myth of Echo & Narcissus.

The lovely Dea Kaizoku, our model for the afternoon, is depicted as a hybrid of both Narcissus (who fell in love with his own reflection) and the wood nymph Echo, whose love he rejected. For me, personally, this self-love represents a need to be more forgiving of myself and to trust my creative process. The crown of branches (which I crafted myself and weighs a ton, BTW) represents my debilitating self-doubt, the burden I put on myself as an artist. She is bound in fabric (cheesecloth, to be precise) which symbolises feelings of constraint, as I often feel bound by my limitations. I added the windblown fabric to express the need to accept my limitations and free myself from those constraints.

Concept Collaboration: Behind The Scenes

Thank you to everyone who came out to the 'In Reflection' Concept Collaboration meetup I hosted earlier this month here in Montreal with the amazing Clément Guégan! Special thanks to Dea Kaizoku, who was gracious enough to be our model for the day.

Our next meetup is still in the planning stages, so if you're interested in joining us, please stay tuned for details! In the meantime, here are some behind the scenes shots from 'In Reflection'...

Spring Promotion

For a limited time, get a discount of $100 on either a Portrait Session or Fairy Tale Session! Spring has finally arrived in Montreal and soon the city's parks will be awash in spring blossoms. Between May 18th and June 1st, take advantage of my spring promotion and a get a personalised Portrait Session for only $150 or a magical Fairy Tale Session for only $250! Why not make the most of this special time of year? Book now to reserve your spot.

Portrait Session includes…

• A pre-session phone or email consultation.
• Each session is custom designed to suit your personality. Therefore, prior to your session, you will be presented with a mood board which conveys the essence of the session concept.
• 2-3 hour on-location photo session.
• Private, password-protected online viewing gallery.
• Digital download of 5 high resolution edited images with print release.

Additional images may be ordered for $25/each.
Professional makeup artist and hair stylist available at an additional cost.

 

Fairy Tale Session includes…

• A pre-session phone or email consultation.
• Each session is custom designed and based on a chosen fairy tale theme. Therefore, prior to your session, you will be presented with a mood board which conveys the essence of the session concept.
• Costumes, props, accessories, etc. provided.
• 2-3 hour on-location photo session.
• Private, password-protected online viewing gallery.
• Digital download of 5 edited images with print release.

Additional images may be ordered for $25/each.
Professional makeup artist and hair stylist available at an additional cost.

A Step-By-Step Look at Post-Production: Little Red Riding Hood

I am often asked how it is that professional photographers sometimes spend several hours editing a single shot. When you consider the amount of work that goes into pre-production – casting, scouting locations, selecting props, costume design, hair and makeup, making sure you have the right photo equipment, etc. – it’s only natural that an equal amount of effort goes into editing the final image. To shed some light on the topic of post-production and to explain just what it involves, I am going to walk you through the step-by-step editing process on one of my favourite shots: the lovely Penelope Phillips as Little Red Riding Hood. 

This portrait was shot using natural light and a collapsible, circular, silver reflector disc. I used the AF-S Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 G lens, which is ideal for portraits, and my settings were: ISO 200, 1/100, f2.8. It was shot in a beautiful forest in Avon, Connecticut, on a summer afternoon. As always, I shot in RAW format, which is the digital photography equivalent of a negative in film photography. Essentially, a RAW file is an uncompressed, unprocessed image file that records the data directly from your camera’s sensor.  Rather than letting the camera process the image for you – by turning it into a JPEG image – shooting in RAW gives you more control, allowing you to process the image to your liking. 

 

Step 1 – Processing in Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is not only the processing software I use for RAW files, it is also the library where I store, retrieve and search for all my images. The Develop Module in Lightroom allows you to adjust the colour and tone of your RAW files as well as crop them, and make other corrections to the unprocessed file.
little-red-before-and-after.jpg

Pictured above is a screenshot of the RAW image before and after processing in Lightroom. For this particular shot, I increased the exposure slightly, fine-tuned the highlights and shadows, adjusted the clarity and vibrance and added a medium contrast curve. Once I was satisfied with the results, I opened the file in Adobe Photoshop.

Step 2 – Retouching 

Retouching is often the most time consuming aspect of post-production. It is the painstaking process of tasks such as: taming flyaway hair, removing blemishes, diminishing wrinkles, fading dark circles, balancing skin tone, brightening eyes, smoothing out wrinkles in clothing, removing unwanted objects, etc. The amount of retouching that you choose to do is entirely up to you, but the most important thing is to keep your retouching as natural-looking as possible. Of course, you want to do as much as you can to reduce the amount of retouching before you actually start shooting. For instance, it’s much easier to simply remove a water bottle that’s in your shot in ‘real life’ than it is to remove it in post-production. This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve heard, “Well, you can just Photoshop it out, right?”

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Step 3 – Colour Correction 

Colour correction takes processing a step further by adding a particular mood to your image through the use of adjustment layers and/or by adding textures. There are many different ways of colour correcting an image, from very subtle effects to more dramatic ones. These are the steps that I took to create the mood for Little Red Riding Hood.

First, I added a custom curves layer in order to diminish some of the green tones caused by the reflection of the forest leaves on the subject...

Then, I added a subtle vignette by using a gradient fill layer. I switched the blend mode from normal to soft light and lowered the layer opacity to 35% to soften the effect...

Vignette.jpg

Next, I muted the tone of the image somewhat through the use of a levels layer. I inverted the layer mask and then painted some of the effect off the subject using a soft, white brush at 75% opacity. I later reduced the opacity of this layer to 50%...

Levels.jpg

Then, I added a photo filter layer (warming filter 85 at a density of 35%) and lowered the opacity of the layer to 75%...

Next, I desaturated the image somewhat by adjusting red, green and white using a selective colour layer...

selective-colour.jpg

Then, I added another gradient fill layer, to add even more warmth to the image. I switched the blend mode from normal to soft light and lowered the layer opacity to 60% to soften the effect...

Finally, I added one more gradient fill layer, to create a hazy, ethereal effect. I used a soft, white brush at 100% opacity to remove the effect from the subject and lowered the opacity of the layer to 60%...

hazy-gradient.jpg

So, there you have it. I hope that this explains, to a certain degree, how it is that professional photographers often spend several hours – and in some cases several days – editing a single image.

A Perfect Springtime Location

A cemetery may seem like an unlikely location for a photo shoot, but the Mount Royal Cemetery, located on the north slope of Mount Royal in the borough of Outremont, is one of the most picturesque locations to shoot at in Montreal, especially during the spring. Furthermore, it is open to the public and no permit is required to shoot there.

Mount Royal Cemetery was the location of this ethereal shoot that I did with the lovely Elisabeth Fallen, with the help of makeup artist Margarita Stolbikova and assistant Erin Murphy. The location was recommended to me by Sylvain Blais – fashion photographer and art director extraordinaire of Dress to Kill Magazine fame – when I was fortunate enough to be under his guidance during my studies at Inter-Dec College.

Incorporated as a garden cemetery in 1847 and established in 1852, it is one of oldest rural cemeteries in North America. Covering 165 acres, it is home to over 100 tree and shrub species, including species rarely grown in Montreal, and is a haven to over 145 species of birds. In 1999, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. 

There may still be snow on the ground, but before you know it, the spring will be in bloom in Montreal. I certainly hope that I will get the chance to shoot at the Mount Royal Cemetery again this year. I will soon be launching a spring promotion, so please stay tuned...

Mount Royal Cemetery
Bleeding Hearts at Mount Royal Cemetery
 

Von Wong Workshop

About a year ago, when I was still at school, studying professional photography, something happened that changed my perspective on what it means to be a photographer. As a Creative Cloud member, I receive monthly newsletters in my inbox from Adobe. Occasionally, there is a feature called Creative Voices in which a cutting-edge artist is introduced via a short documentary or interview. Last March, the artist introduced was Benjamin Von Wong. I dare you to watch this video and not be inspired...

There are a lot of photographers, both past and present, who inspire me. However, something about this young man from my hometown of Montreal really struck a chord. Not only is he ridiculously talented, but he exudes an aura of positivity that can only be described as magical. His infectious attitude and limitless imagination make you feel like anything is possible. To see more of his mind-blowing images and learn more about his philosophy, check out his website, Von Wong.

Last night, a dream came true. I had the privilege of participating in a Von Wong workshop and it was an experience I’ll never forget. He is rarely in Montreal, so when I found out about a month ago that he would be doing a free workshop as part of a Radio-Canada documentary, I jumped on the opportunity. 

The workshop took place at photographer Thierry Quenette’s studio and after a brief introduction and Q&A session, Ben walked us through his creative process in a very organic way as he and his assistant Jessika Chiasson adjusted the lighting on models Oli Scar and Clara Cloutier. While shooting, Ben gave us invaluable advice about the importance of good communication, focusing on and directing your models and involving everyone on your team in the creative process. Afterwards, he invited participants to take some shots of their own. With 25 participants in attendance, I was lucky to get a couple of shots!

Oli Scar

Oli Scar & Clara Cloutier

It was wonderful seeing Ben’s creative process firsthand and working with a supremely talented team of individuals, including gifted makeup artist Tamsen Rae, angelic artistic model Clara Cloutier and extraordinary fire performers Oli Scar and Richard Erno of Pyrometheus.

Once the studio portion of the workshop was wrapped up, we all went out into the chilly night air to try our hand at shooting pyrotechnics, guided by Ben, of course. This was my first experience shooting fire, so there was a lot of trial and error, but I still managed to get some shots that I am pleased with.

Richard Erno

Richard Erno

Oli Scar and Clara Cloutier

Oli Scar & Clara Cloutier

It’s such a great feeling when you meet somebody that you admire and they end up exceeding your expectations. Not only was this an incredible learning experience, but I can assure you that Ben is just as gracious, down-to-earth and kindhearted as he appears to be. In fact, when he found out that I and one of the other participants live in the same neighbourhood as him, he gave us both a ride home, even though he had to get up at 6am for Toronto the next morning. Incidentally, I still can’t get over the fact that this legend practically lives (when he’s in Montreal, that is) in my backyard! I am so grateful for this experience and sincerely hope that I will have the opportunity to attend another workshop or assist Benjamin Von Wong in the future. 

New Beginnings

I’ve never been one to shy away from change. After all, I am the same person who left everything familiar behind to teach English and travel the world. I am also the same person who decided to completely change the direction of my life when, after a 15 year teaching career, I decided to pursue my lifelong passion and go back to school to study professional photography.

For over 20 years, photography was a way for me to share what the world looked like through my lens, to share my travels and to express myself, but it was only in 2013 that I resolved to take that passion to the next level and learn the technical skills and techniques necessary to become a professional photographer. I now hold a diploma in Professional Photography from Inter-Dec College and am an emerging talent member of CAPIC - The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators.

Although I have learnt a lot through my studies, personal projects and contracts with both private and commercial clients, my thirst for knowledge is not easily quenched. I am constantly learning to improve my technique, hone my talent and broaden my horizons by practicing every day, keeping up with current trends, following the work of other talented photographers, attending portfolio reviews and participating in photography workshops.

For almost two years, I have been sharing my work, offering photographic services and selling prints under the name Beautiful Colours Photography. However, I recently decided that, once again, it was time for a change. Therefore, I would like to welcome you to my new website, Deena Roth Photography. On the website, you can see my latest work, browse my portfolio, read client testimonials, learn a bit about my background and the services I provide, contact me to inquire about services, rates and bookings, and access my online store to purchase beautiful fine art prints.

On this blog, you can learn more about me and why I love photography. Most importantly, this is a place where I will be sharing recent and past work, my creative process from pre-production to post-production, behind-the-scenes glimpses of my photo shoots, guides for clients on how to prepare for and what to expect on a professional photo shoot, answers to FAQs, tutorials and photo tips, my personal experiences and adventures in the world of photography, some of the best locations to shoot in and around Montreal and beyond, and of course… my latest promotions!

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a huge thank you to my friends, family and the fellow artists who have encouraged me and supported me on this journey. Change is exciting, but it can also be quite daunting! The journey has only just begun…

So, stay tuned, and don’t hesitate to comment on my blog posts, as your valuable feedback is always appreciated. Please don’t forget that you can contact me anytime if you have any questions. I would love to hear from you!